President Barack Obama called it—in less than 140 characters.
“This happened because of you. Thank you,” Obama tweeted. That the president would take his message to Twitter before taking the stage in Chicago underscored the tremendous role social media like Twitter played in the 2012 polls.
Minutes later, with the race called in his favour, Obama tweeted again. “We’re all in this together. That's how we campaigned, and that’s who we are. Thank you. -bo.”
Top campaign aides used the Internet tool to snipe at each other, the candidates used it to get out their messages and political reporters used it to inform and entertain.
On Election Night, the tweets were flowing.
By 10 pm EST, with the race still up for grabs, Twitter announced it had broken records. There were more than 31 million election-related tweets on Tuesday night, making Election Night "the most tweeted about event in U.S. political history," said Twitter spokeswoman Rachael Horwitz. Between 6 p.m. and midnight EST, there were more than 23 million tweets.
Horwitz noted the previous record was 10 million, during the first presidential debate on October 3.
"Twitter brought people closer to almost every aspect of the election this year," Horwitz said. "From breaking news, to sharing the experience of watching the debates, to interacting directly with the candidates, Twitter became a kind of nationwide caucus."
In the moments following Obama's win, Twitter was in a frenzy, with a peak of 327,000 tweets a minute.
Another tweet from Obama, one that read: "Four more years" and showed a picture of him hugging his wife, became the most retweeted tweet in the history of the site.
For Rob Johnson, campaign manager for Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry's failed presidential run, Twitter "changed the dynamic this cycle and will continue to play a bigger role in years to come."
With many political reporters and campaign staff on Twitter and Facebook, social media websites were often the first place news broke. Some top news stories were kept alive or thrust into the headlines after becoming hot topics on Twitter.
"It was one heckuva echo chamber," Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire, said in an email.
"The twitterverse shapes the news and public opinion," Johnson said. "The Internet is truly a real and powerful tool in politics."
In future elections, candidates and their campaign staffs will have to include social media as another battleground, Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons said.
"This was the first Twitter election and social media is now fully a part of our election mechanics," Simmons said. "Going forward candidates must have an aggressive social media strategy if they want to win."